I’d like to put a cap on the season much like Marcellus Wallace wanted to put a cap in Butch Coolidge’s ass, and what better way to do so than with awards? (Well, besides just getting really drunk and forgetting the last two seasons ever happened) I know that doing this with a 21-win team reeks of “world’s tallest dwarf award,” but this is our world, Bobcats fans, and this team is our dwarf, so let’s award the poor little bastard:
MVP: Kemba Walker. This one’s not even close. First of all, Walker played all 82 games, which should also qualify him for a purple heart. He also led the team in PER (18.8) and win-shares (4.8—more than doubling up everyone except Gerald Henderson and Ramon Sessions), according to Basketball-Reference.com. From a plus/minus perspective, Walker had the second-highest plus/minus of the core starters (okay, it was -8.2—so yes, go ahead and insert “military intelligence” joke here). The team improved with Walker on the court offensively per 100 possessions (+0.2 points more) and defensively (2.8 fewer points allowed), for a net-rating of +3.0 (courtesy of 82games.com). MKG had gaudier per-100 numbers, as did (randomly) Jeff Adrien, but they obviously didn’t log nearly as much PT as did one Kemba Hudley Walker. The only knock I can give him is that his “clutch” net-rating (his net-rating when there are fewer than 5 minutes to play and the Bobcats are within 5 points of the opponent, per NBA.com) trails several teammates, but the fact that a) the Bobcats were so rarely in clutch situations, and b) one of those teammates he trails is Tyrus Thomas, causes me to dismiss the category. The bottom line is the kid’s a top-10 PG with a handle like a bottle of Windex and defense that is…not much worse than anyone else on the team. Hold me closer, tiny Kemba, you’re our MVP.
Most Improved Player: Gerald Henderson. This could also be Walker, as could most awards other than “Most Likely To Eat His Own Belly Flab Roll” (Gana Diop), but I’ll give it to Henderson on the rationale that Walker’s a second-year player and expected to improve. Hendo’s PER went from 14.0 last year to 16.4 this year, and while his defense slipped, it continued to be adequate (82games.com has him defending 2’s to a PER of 14.3 last year and 15.7 this year). The best thing about Gerald was the way he learned how to attack the defense: on a per-36 minute basis, his 3-point attempts went from 0.9 to 1.7 and his 3-pt accuracy improved from 23% to 33%. At the same time, his free-throw attempts went from 4.0 to 5.3, and his FT% went from 76% to 82%. He improved both from long range and on his drives, which is how you win basketball games (or, at least 21 of them).
Rookie of the Year: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I mentioned earlier that Walker trailed MKG in the on-court/off-court +/- per 100 possession category. Well, Kidd-Gilchrist made the offense 2.5 points better and the defense 3.1 points stingier when he played, for a net of +5.6. Considering this team finished a league-last -10.6 PP100P, MKG was the one Amish kid who said, “Screw this, I’m getting a damned electric butter churn.” His PER of 14.04 was a respectable 12th among rookies, 8 of whom played WAY less than him (and mostly on WAY better teams). And his Estimated Wins Added (EWA) was fifth among rookies. Again, on this team, that’s like finding Jesus’s image on a skid mark. And contrary to what EVERYONE is saying, he did NOT hit the rookie wall. His post All-Star Game rebound percentage went up, his turnover percentage went down, and his effective field goal percentage went up (all per NBA.com). Even just a basic stat like his points-per-game just narrowly dipped from 9.1 to 8.9, so everyone talking about the rookie wall can go jump off it. The Bobcats might have been Swiss cheese, but MKG was the Swiss army knife—the swingman with the all-around blade/nail-file/tiny scissors/corkscrew combo threat.